Flanders 2055

Read in Het Parool of 3 October 2015:

He was the last speaker at the conference last week, in the House of Lords (Eerste Kamer) in The Hague, just after me. The journalist who interviewed him was in the audience. Jonathan Holslag (1981) is professor at the Free University of Brussels, he’s an expert in China. Like all the speakers that day he focused on the future of the Netherlands. His theme: geopolitics. He was very pessimistic, I remember. Two days later I read the interview with him in Het Parool, a Dutch newspaper. Pessimistic too. What I didn’t know is that he had just published a book on the future of Flanders, Belgium. In ‘Vlaanderen 2055’ he presented his dream of future Flanders. When I met him in The Hague we discussed his view on cities. According to him, megacities are horrible inventions, inhuman, not sustainable. He had read my blog, he told me. He wanted to discuss with me why the hell I wanted to double the size of Amsterdam. He simply could not understand. But interesting though it was. What did he say in the interview? “The only possibility is to return to a society where we can improve ourselves en live together on a human scale.”

Is his view utopian, romantic? Holslag: “I think we feel better in communities that are small, where buildings are not too big. There is a big risk that cosmopolitan people project their wishes and ideas on the rest of the population.” So yes, Holslag is romantic, anti-urban, like most European thinkers through history. But what he stands for is also unrealistic, simply not true. Holslag: “Innovation and scientific breakthroughs mostly come from university-cities that have no more than een few hundred thousand inhabitants. Campusses of Google and others look like villages, not megacities.” Nonsense of course. That holds only if your focus is narrow. Holslag is a European romantic, living in one of the most unsustainable economies of the world. Why? Because Belgium is one of the least densily built, one of the most suburbanised, oil-consuming countries, the country is a horrible scenario come true. Like the Netherlands, Belgium would better build a megacity now.





One response to “Flanders 2055”

  1. Angelique Avatar

    Ha Zef,

    As always, heb je een boeiend relaas en een reactie uitlokkend!
    Sluit het een het ander uit? Kunnen we geen megacities of metropolen hebben waar de menselijke maat heerst? Moeten we niet in andere bestuursvormen gaan denken, meer fluïde en participatief?

    Groet, Angelique

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